OCHO was started by Liz Rowe who is an artist and former journalist. This is how her life got side-tracked on to making chocolate.
In 2011 I spent six months in Latin America; mainly México but also Guatemala and Ecuador. You can't spend much time in México is without learning about cacao and how important it was in the Mayan and Aztec cultures. The beans were traded as currency and the rich drank a hot chocolate drink flavoured with spices. When Hernán Cortés arrived in the 16th century he was introduced to the drink, and cocoa beans eventually made their way back to Europe on Spanish ships. Today one of México's most famous dishes in molé, which is flavoured with cacao.
I started searching for chocolate and in Oaxaca (a famous foodie town) I found a rich dark paste made from ground cacao and sugar and sold by the kilo from the markets. This was what went in to the molé sauces, but where was the smooth refined chocolate I was used to? In Guatemala I visited a small chocolatier and discovered a bit more about how cacao is grown and harvested and then in Ecuador I met a chocolate maker. He told me it wasn't easy making chocolate – the process itself is fairly straightforward, but there's a whole lot of variables along the way that can change and make it hard – and that the first thing I needed to do was learn more about chocolate by eating more of it then to think very hard about going any further.
Say no more. I came home and spent a year researching and eating lots of different dark chocolate. I bought a few basic bits of equipment and some beans and started experimenting at home. I realised I wanted a source of beans closer to home, so started investigating Pacific Islands and ended up visiting Papua New Guinea and meeting a wonderful group of farmers, exporters and people from the Cocoa Board.
With a source of beans established and the purchase of some slightly bigger equipment OCHO was ready to go.